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The British Council announced at the start of February, that we have had to suspend our operations in Iran. A sad day for the British Council, and also for tens of thousands of Iranians who have engaged with our cultural and education programmes in recent years. So far so uncontroversial. However, let’s not forget the deeper loss – the loss to the people of the UK.
As Hillary Clinton said last week, "America cannot solve the most pressing problems on our own, and the world cannot solve them without America. "We must use what has been called 'smart power,' the full range of tools at our disposal," she said, embracing diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal and cultural strategies.
In today's 24/7 news environment, governments have it hard. In my experience, working at the centre of UK government in the Cabinet Office, I found that government has to know its position on everything and be able to articulate it in a sound bite. You have to be either 'for' or 'against' any proposition, policy proposal or idea. You cannot be equivocal; you cannot have a nuanced view. If it's a significant policy or issue, then you have to be crystal clear. When government isn't clear, the media pursue, challenge and provoke you in 24 hour news cycles until you are clear.
At the British Council – the UK’s international cultural and educational body – we’ve been thinking about what we call the International Relations Positioning Spectrum. It draws on work by Nick Cull and work done by Ali Fisher and Counterpoint, our cultural relations think tank on ‘'Options for Influence’.
People, Places, Power | Season 2, Episode 33: What’s in a Name? Renaming Places as a Strategic Gambit
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